doors, windows, hardware

Door to Door

Three suppliers discuss trends in the entry door market.

Click here for a list of suppliers of wood doors and entryways

This French Style double entry door from Kolbe & Kolbe's Craftsman Collection is made of knotty alder and features v-groove panels and a matching transom. Photo: courtesy of Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork

By Nicole V. Gagné

In "Song of Myself," Walt Whitman demanded, "Unscrew the locks from the doors! / Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!" As poetry, those words have resonated for over 150 years. As architectural advice, however, they have been roundly ignored. Are there homeowners anywhere on the planet who don't love their doors? The exterior door of a house is at once both barrier and gateway and is invariably designed to look inviting and accessible while being solid and sturdy enough to repel the unwanted. If windows are the eyes of the house, then the doors must be its equally invaluable hands – shifting from open and extended to shut and withdrawn.

The market for three major suppliers of exterior wood doors – Grabill Windows and Doors of Almont, MI; Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork of Wausau, WI and Zeluck Doors & Windows of Brooklyn, NY – is nationwide and primarily residential. This national market has revealed a shift in style to Lance Premeau, product manager at Kolbe & Kolbe. "Geographically, each region tends to have homes constructed to match certain architectural styles," he says. "However, there seems to be a ‘blending' of these styles; consumers are more willing to construct a home utilizing a certain style that may not traditionally be seen in their region."

This home in Aspen, CO, has a 10-ft.-tall mahogany entry door from Zeluck complemented by another similar pair of Zeluck doors to the left. Photo: courtesy of Zeluck Doors & Windows
These round-head mahogany doors from Zeluck match the grandeur of this stone-faced house in Long Island, NY. The main entry door stands 13 ft. tall. Photos: courtesy of Zeluck Doors & Windows

For all three companies, green concerns are redefining the residential market. "A lot of green building is going on right now, so a lot of our wood is forest-managed FSC [Forest Stewardship Council] certified," says Grabill CEO Teresa Grabill. Premeau echoes her in this regard. "There's a market need for energy-efficient, green products," he says. "Environmentally conscious consumers have the ability to choose FSC-certified products from Kolbe in many different species. Many of our door products are energy efficient and perform very well in all climates. Performance is one of the biggest changes in the market. In the southeastern U.S. and along the East Coast, the building codes have become very stringent in terms of product performance. Exterior doors are expected to meet impact ratings and higher air, water and structural codes for many of those regions. In Florida, Miami-Dade County requirements are perhaps the most stringent in the U.S. Manufacturers have responded with options to meet these product demands, such as laminated glass and multi-point locking hardware."

While Kolbe & Kolbe offers both stock and custom doors, Grabill and Zeluck are exclusively custom. "We'll build whatever the architect wants," says Kevin Zeluck, co-president, along with his brother Roy, of Zeluck Doors & Windows. "It's really unlimited. They design it. We build it. In the arena that we play in, everything has become more custom. People have become much more focused on architectural details." "We'll work directly with customers, who sometimes send us a hand drawing of the design," says Grabill. "But normally an architect will send us the designs, and then we do a shop drawing for that particular door and section details of the head and the jamb, which will show all of the profiles and details for the project.

"Kolbe & Kolbe has the ability to work with homeowners, builders, designers and architects to help them determine which door products are available to meet their needs," says Premeau. "Our staff can help in the design, specification, drawing and quote stages of a project. Most projects can be completed using our exterior wood doors due to the wide array of options available. The market has changed over the last several years, due to the increased capabilities of the manufacturers. The end user wants the ability to choose the species, color, shape, hardware, performance and function of their exterior doors, and they want multiple options in each of these categories."

Grabill's "Dungeon Door," made of mahogany with leaded glass and bronze hardware, complements this house's stone facade. Photo: courtesy of Grabill Windows and Doors
The "50 Lite Door" from Grabill is custom designed and has true divided lites and restored ribbon art glass at the side. Photo: courtesy of Grabill Windows and Doors
This mahogany in-swing entrance door from Kolbe & Kolbe features sidelites and a thick door sash panel with a thick frame. Photo: courtesy of Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork

In terms of species, Grabill notes that clients want a wood that's going to last. "Over the years, our number one seller has been mahogany," she says, "and what's coming in second right now is Spanish cedar. It looks much like mahogany and has a lot of the same values as mahogany – as far as rot resistance – but it's about half the price. The big difference is that the Spanish cedar right now isn't FSC-certified; whereas, our mahogany is."

All three firms also do a vigorous business in supplying windows. "Doors are sold in somewhat predictable ratios to windows, especially in residential projects," says Premeau. "For example, a ‘typical' home may have 12 to 20 windows, a main entry door, and potentially two patio doors. Of course, there are projects that will change this ratio, such as large-scale renovations."

The firms vary significantly when it comes to the role of distributors. Kolbe & Kolbe does not sell directly to homeowners, contractors or architects, working instead through distributors and dealers. Zeluck's policy is the reverse, as the firm eschews distributors and works directly with architects, contractors and homeowners. As Grabill notes, her company has a foot in each approach. "We work directly with our clients, but we do have people in certain areas of the country, such as Colorado and Chicago, who work directly for Grabill and sell only Grabill products," she says. "We like to keep in direct contact with our clients, especially once you start getting into some of the higher-end homes; you have to be on the job site a lot, and it takes a lot of work to bring all these projects to completion. So we like to stay involved, and we like to talk to the clients and the architects. We just feel that it's important, especially in this day and age of emailing and computerization. It's easy to get lost in all that electronic translation, and you still need to shake people's hands and meet with people. My husband is from the old school, and he hates email. He would just as soon pick up the phone and talk to somebody."

Click here for a list of suppliers of wood doors and entryways